The optimal level of conflict

David R. Brubaker writes in this weeks Alban Institute e-newsletter that conflict is normal in every organization. Some disagreement and conflict provides energy and generates ideas but it is like Goldilock’s porridge: organizations thrive when conflict is not too hot and not too cold but just right.

First, leaders need to move toward conflict, not away from it. Leaders who learn to move toward conflict discover that they have opportunities to resolve issues when those issues are small, rather than attempting to fight fires when they are nearly out of control.

Second, the identified issue is almost never the real issue. The allegation from the Greek-speaking minority that their “widows were being overlooked” in the daily food distribution was indeed a compelling one, but it likely was a proxy for a deeper feeling of powerlessness and alienation among the Hellenist members of the early church. All the significant leadership positions (apostles) were held by the Aramaic-speaking majority, and the minority did not know how to exercise their voice other than through “murmuring.”

Third, involve the “complainers” in solving their identified problems. Note that the apostles did not agree to take care of the problem that had been identified. Rather, they recruited members of the murmuring minority to address the problem. This outcome actually created a new role in the church–that of deacon.

Read it all here, especially Brubakers study of the Book of Acts which may make for a useful Bible study with congregational leadership.

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